From the New York Times:
People who prefer concentrated fruit flavors will not be disappointed with a wine like Beaux Frères Ribbon Ridge Vineyard, which did not make our top 10 and, at $70, was the most expensive in our tasting. They may also enjoy the Ken Wright Meredith Mitchell Vineyard ($45), another wine full of upfront fruit.
Our No. 1 bottle was the Belle Pente Willamette Valley, beautifully balanced, well coiled with acidity and harmonious on the palate, with complex aromas of mint, red fruit, flowers and smoke. At $23, it was our best value. Our No. 2 bottle was the fresh, vibrant WillaKenzie Willamette Valley, which combined intriguing, exotic fruit aromas with an earthiness on the palate. These two wines were followed closely by the lively, structured Adelsheim Willamette Valley, and the complex, harmonious Et Fille Willamette Valley.
None of our top four wines cost more than $27. By contrast, we were slightly less enthusiastic about some of the more expensive wines in the tasting. While we certainly liked the Kilmore from Owen Roe at $40, and the Soter at $45, both from the Yamhill-Carlton District of the Willamette, they each had apparent flavors of new oak that were not so well integrated into the wine. So did the Antica Terra Willamette Valley at $48.
Many factors can drive up the cost of a wine, including the high price of new-oak barrels from France, which can run up to $1,000 each. Possibly, many people like the creamy vanilla, chocolate and spice flavors associated with new oak, but if it is not well integrated it can be an ungainly and distracting adornment, like the flashy chrome trim Detroit used to tack onto its luxury cars.
As often seems to be the case, avoiding luxury cuvées is an easy consumer solution to the new-oak problem. But beware. If you go too far with the idea that cheaper is better, without regard to the philosophy of the producer, you can stray into the area of mass-produced wines flavored with cheap new-oak alternatives. Similarly, it’s a mistake to assume that every expensive wine is going to be oaky. You may miss some extraordinary wines from producers who believe in the benefits of aging wine in oak barrels but do it in a way that avoids imparting overt flavors.
Regardless of these quibbles, the 2008 vintage is excellent. But the quality of the wines is due to more than just the vintage conditions. With each year of experience, winemakers in Oregon become better at understanding the combination of climate, vineyard and cellar work necessary to produce good wines. Sure, the 2008s are superb. But if the prices start rising, remember that the 2007s were pretty good, too.